At the outset, I wish to congratulate His Excellency the Prime Minister of Bhutan Lyonchhen Jigmi Thinley for his election as Chairperson of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. I assure him of India’s fullest support.
I also take this opportunity to convey our deepest appreciation to His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and the Royal Government of Bhutan for the excellent arrangements made for the Summit.
It is a singular pleasure for me to visit Bhutan once again and to experience its pristine beauty and the warmth of its people.
I wish to welcome the two new Observer countries, Australia and Myanmar, to the SAARC fraternity.
This is a historic Summit. This year we mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of our organization. This is also the first time that we meet in Bhutan.
In the last few years Bhutan has witnessed momentous changes, and I take this opportunity to wish its people even greater prosperity, peace and progress.
Speaking at the first SAARC Summit in Dhaka in 1985, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi described the establishment of SAARC as an act of faith. Based on our experience so far we can affirm that this was also an act of great foresight and statesmanship.
In these two and a half decades our sub-continent has been witness to much progress. Yet, each one of our countries, and our region as a whole, has a long way to go in fulfilling the aspirations of our people.
In looking back at these two and a half decades we can claim the glass is half full, and compliment ourselves, or, we can admit the glass is half empty and challenge ourselves.
I believe we should challenge ourselves by acknowledging that the glass of regional cooperation, regional development and regional integration is half empty. Intra-regional trade flows have grown and transport and telecommunication links have expanded. Yet, the share of intra-regional trade and investment flows in total trade and investment flows in South Asia is far below what we see in East and South-east Asia. It is also well below the potential.